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Will relaxed hours of service cause more truck accidents?

The link between fatigue and truck accidents was established a long time ago, which is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration instituted rules requiring truck drivers to take mandatory rest periods and not drive more than a certain number of hours per day. Due to recent events, the FMCSA extended the maximum number of hours a truck driver could be on the road.

Now, the administration recently proposed additional changes to the hours of service rules that some believe will increase truck driver fatigue, which could increase truck accidents, in turn.

The proposed changes

The administration proposed the following five changes to the existing hours of service rules:

  • Drivers may take their 30-minute break while on duty but not while driving. For instance, the time they spend waiting for loads could count as this break.
  • Instead of taking a full 10-hour break, drivers could take a seven-hour break to sleep and then take the other three-hour break at their leisure.
  • Drivers could take an off-duty three-hour break and a 30-minute break at some point during a 14-hour shift. They must still be off duty for at least 10 hours after this shift.
  • Instead of a maximum 12-hour driving time, truck drivers could drive for a maximum of 14 hours and not have to take a break until they reach 150 “air miles” instead of the current 100.
  • In adverse conditions, drivers can extend their 14-hour maximum by two hours.

The proposed rule changes have not yet gone into effect, but many are considering what they would mean for safety. The FMCSA says the rules would give drivers more flexibility while maintaining safety since drivers will still not be allowed to drive more than eight hours at a time without taking at least a 30-minute break. However, some say research indicates that these rules could increase fatigue since drivers would be on the road later.

The consequences

If the FMCSA makes these changes, it could be some time before the full extent of the consequences are known. Far too many innocent motorists, including many here in Pennsylvania end up the victims of fatigued truck drivers. If you end up in an accident involving a truck driver suffering from sleep deprivation, the injuries you suffer could disrupt your life, at least temporarily, or change it forever.